Elan Fourth-Quarter Losses Narrow as Tysabri Sales Grow

Elan reported a smaller fourth-quarter loss and higher sales Tuesday, citing the expansion of its multiple sclerosis-fighting drug Tysabri as a major factor.

Chief Financial Officer Shane Cooke said Elan -- which has been in the red since battling back from near-bankruptcy in 2002 -- should reach the break-even point by the end of 2007 thanks in part to the growing market for Tysabri.

For the quarter ending Dec. 31, Elan said its net loss came to $26.5 million (20.2 million euros) from $58.3 million a year ago. Its quarterly sales rose to $166.4 million (126.6 million euros) from $140.4 million in the last quarter of 2005.

For the full 2006 year, net losses declined to $267.3 million (203.4 million euros) from $383.6 million in 2005. Sales rose to $560.4 million (426.5 million euros) from $490.3 million.

Tysabri, Elan's key product developed in conjunction with U.S. drug maker Biogen Idec, was withdrawn from U.S. sale shortly after its launch in February 2005 after being linked to a rare, usually fatal brain disease.

But regulatory authorities in the United States and European Union permitted resumed sales of Tysabri in mid-2006 after imposing a higher-risk profile for use of the drug.

Elan said about 10,000 sufferers of MS -- an incurable disease of the nervous system that can cause sudden partial paralysis -- were using Tysabri today. It said about 300 were signing up each week to begin taking the drug, which is administered every four weeks by intravenous infusion at specialist clinics.

Elan's chief executive officer, Kelly Martin, said the company also expected progress in clinical trials for potential drugs to help people afflicted by the brain-wasting disease Alzheimer's.

Martin said Elan's "commitment to the scientific and clinical pipeline, particularly Alzheimer's disease, has never been greater. We expect to make tangible progress in all areas of our portfolio over the course of the year."

Elan shares rose 0.13 euros ($0.17) to 11.28 euros ($14.82) in early trade on the Irish Stock Exchange. That price remains about half the level of Elan's stock value before the surprise withdrawal of Tysabri two years ago.